By Jeff Bahr
A Dannebrog man flying a private aircraft made an emergency landing Tuesday morning on a gravel road northwest of Grand Island.
James Burgess brought down his Cessna 172 onto White Cloud Road, half a mile west of Highway 281.
Burgess was flying with another man, who lives south of Grand Island. Neither man was injured, and the plane did not appear to be damaged.
The pair took off from Central City and were headed to northeast Kansas. Hall County Sheriff’s deputies were notified of the landing at 9:28 a.m.
Burgess was forced to land because his plane lost power.
“The engine felt like it went to idle, and it wasn’t developing any power,” he said.
He contacted the tower at Central Nebraska Regional Airport to see about landing. But the engine died, so he landed on the road.
Burgess felt he did the right thing.
“Yeah, we’re on the ground safe. No one’s hurt. The airplane’s in one piece. Can’t beat it,” he said.
Burgess’ mechanic, who arrived on the scene, felt the problem was due to carburetor icing.
That results from high humidity and lower temperature, Burgess said. The icing occurred at about 8,000 feet.
An employee of the Federal Aviation Administration, based at the Grand Island airport, was due to arrive shortly.
If everything was OK, Burgess planned to see if the engine would run.
After landing, he talked with someone in the Grand Island airport tower “to let them know that everything’s fine out here.”
Burgess learned to fly in 2002.
“I’ve got about 500 hours of flight time,” he said. During that time, he has made hundreds of takeoffs and landings.
Burgess had never made an emergency landing before.
But in training, pilots practice making such landings, he said.
“We’re trained to look for a spot to land,” Burgess said.
It’s OK to land on a road, but if you do, you’ve got to be alert for poles and wires, he said.
Burgess could have landed in the adjacent field.
“But this looked like the best alternative at the time,” he said.
When the engine developed problems, Burgess said, he didn’t panic or feel afraid. But he was concerned.
“You’re trained to land and take off, and you just focus on what you’re doing,” he said.